Ethiopia and China: Educational Landscapes



By: Matthew Jellick 

Upon initial reflection, the similarities between Ethiopia and China may be few, distanced between contrasting continents, and spread across differing ideologies.  Yet as a teacher, something I have learned that brings the world closer together is education, and the understanding that achievement in the classroom often brings about success on a larger stage, regardless of location.

This past week I had the opportunity to revisit Ethiopia, a country where I taught for two years prior to coming to China.  Engulfed in social, economic and educational change, Ethiopia, perhaps more than anywhere else I have lived, taught me more about myself both as a person and a professional, instilling in me ideals and beliefs which I have carried over to my instruction here in China.  During this recent trip, my eyes were once again opened to the importance of education in a cross-cultural context, and the role it plays in being an agent of change.


Classrooms in China come equipped with the latest technology, from Smart Boards to integrated online platforms.  In contrast, classrooms in Ethiopia sometimes lack basic necessities such as chalk or electricity.  Yet it is the ambition and determination of the students from each respective country which rise across physical and cultural divides; understanding that motivation comes from within, fueled by the dream of a better tomorrow where collaboration, not competition, drives global sustainability.

During my week in the capital city of Addis Ababa, I led two English workshops, met with educational leaders, and even collaborated with scholarship recipients who have turned their dreams into reality.  One commonality they all shared was an interest in hearing about my experiences from China, a country which they see as an integral part of global growth.  For it is China where more and more students are turning to for educational and business opportunities, and they wanted to know more about things ranging from the university system to the high-speed trains.  I view myself not as an American teaching in China, but rather as a global educator, and I was happy to share stories with the Ethiopian students about the opportunities which exist not only in places like Shenzhen, but in fact anywhere they chose to set their ambitions towards.  Ethiopia, more than anywhere, is full of hope, and this communal strength is what continues to sustain their dreams.


To be able to work in these juxtaposed educational environments has underscored the notion that the world is our classroom, and that learning is indeed lifelong and worldwide.  I am grateful for these opportunities and hope that I can in turn share an extended worldview with my students on whichever continent I may be teaching.

Matthew Jellick is a Senior Lecturer in the Center for Language Education at Southern University of Science and Technology.